Sunday, May 8, 2016

Pick Up Your Ride And Go Home

Whiny techbros don't like being told what they can and can't do in the Age of Disruption, and Austin, home of SXSW, decided that yes, ride-sharing drivers for services like Uber and Lyft need tougher background checks.  The companies spent nearly $8 million to force a ballot measure repealing the background check ordnance, and voters went to the polls on Saturday.

On-demand ride companies Uber and Lyft suffered an embarrassing defeat in a Saturday election in Austin as voters backed a measure requiring fingerprint background checks for drivers.

The two companies spent more than $8 million to repeal a city ordinance requiring the fingerprint-based criminal checks and launched what turned into the most expensive race in the Texas capital's history. Voters said by a margin of 56 to 44 percent they wanted the fingerprint checks to stay.

The companies outspent their opponents by 80-to-1 and when the votes were tallied their campaign contributions broke down to being more than $200 for each vote in favor of their position.

"Disappointment does not begin to describe how we feel about shutting down operations in Austin," Uber's Austin general manager Chris Nakutis said in a statement.

The stakes were high for the privately held Uber and Lyft, which say their background checks are already rigorous and ensure safety.

"Unfortunately, the rules passed by City Council don't allow true ridesharing to operate," Lyft said, adding it will suspend operations in Austin as of Monday.

That's right, both Uber and Lyft have long threatened to shut down their services if the repeal failed, warning that the city will lose tens of millions in business and that hundreds of drivers will lose their jobs.

Which isn't true, as the cost of the tougher background checks in Austin would have been less than the $8 million they spent lobbying for the repeal, but they figure they can force the city to come crawling back to them eventually.

Most likely I see a Republican-backed statewide measure that repeals the Austin ordnance soon.  In the meantime, the techbros will continue to whine.

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